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A Final Look Back at the 2005 Season, Part 4

Mike SteffanosSaturday, October 15, 2005
By Mike Steffanos

Part 4 of 4

August 30 -- High Water Mark
Some Mets fans would argue that the Mets hit their high water mark of the season when Trachsel beat the Giants, putting them 8 games over .500 and within a game and a half of the wildcard. To me, it was the game that began the next homestand against the Phillies, despite the 2 losses to the Giants that came in between. The Mets came into the game still only 1-1/2 out of the wildcard with a chance to control their own destiny.

Jae Seo, who had been terrific since his recall earlier in the month, was pitching for the Mets; matched up with rookie Robinson Tejeda. For the first time in 5 starts since his recall Seo didn't really have it as Kenny Lofton and Pat Burrell both took him deep, putting the Mets down 3-0 before their first at bat.

The Mets got a run back in the bottom of the inning as Beltran crushed a 2 out homer to right-center. Seo gave it right back in the top of the second as Jimmy Rollins singled home Mike Lieberthal to put the Phillies up 4-0. After that, although clearly lacking his best stuff, Seo settled down, pitching a 1-2-3 third that featured strikeouts of Abreu and Burrell, then holding the Phillies scoreless in the fourth despite allowing 2 hits to lead off the frame. Meanwhile, the only threat the Mets could mount against Tejada came in the fourth. Victor Diaz' 2 out triple went to waste when Castro's pop out left him stranded.

In the top of the fifth the Phillies threatened to add on. Kenny Lofton, who seemed to be taking out his bad Yankee experience on the Mets this year, led off with a double. Chase Utley followed with a single to center. Lofton, who had been experiencing leg problems, tried to score. Beltran made a great throw home, and though Lofton seemed to beat it he was called out at home. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel got tossed in the ensuing argument, but on the replay Lofton was clearly out, his slide leg bouncing up and over home plate, with Castro's tag coming before he touched home. Despite a single by Burrell with 2 outs Seo managed to survive the inning by striking out Ryan Howard and the Mets still had a pulse.

In the bottom of the fifth Beltran's 2 out single brought home Reyes to help the Mets creep back to 4-2. Heilman came in to pitch the top of the sixth, gave up a Lieberthal single and a walk to Rollins, but retired Lofton on a fly to Beltran to escape that threat. The Mets did nothing in the sixth as Diaz hit into a double play after Jacobs' 1 out walk. In the top of the seventh Chase Utley worked a leadoff walk against Heilman, who got Abreu and Burrell on fly outs and struck out Ryan Howard to keep the Mets within 2.

Ryan Madson came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh for the Phillies. Ramon Castro greeted him with a leadoff double. Marlon Anderson pinch hit for Heilman and flied out deep enough to right to advance Castro to third. Reyes flied out to short left field, nowhere near deep enough to score the extremely slow Castro, and Madsen was an out away from escaping damage. He got ahead of Cairo 1-2, but then hit him. Madsen walked Beltran on 4 pitches to load the bases, then wild-pitched home Castro to put the Mets within 1. Floyd struck out to end the threat, but the Mets had cut the lead to 4-3.

Juan Padilla came in for the Mets to start the top of the eighth, setting the Phillies down without incident. In the bottom of the eighth Ugueth Urbina got the ball, his job to get 3 outs and hand the game to Billy Wagner. He walked David Wright on 5 pitches. Jacobs struck out but Wright stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position with one out.

Urbina, clearly struggling with his control, walked Victor Diaz on a 3-2 pitch. Despite Urbina's struggles the Phillies made no move to get Wagner ready, placing confidence in Urbina. He fell behind Castro 1-0, then tried to throw a slider by him to even the count. Castro admitted after the game that he was looking for a breaking ball, Urbina not only obliged but hung the pitch badly, and Castro crushed it to left-center for a dramatic home run. The crowd went bezerk, the Mets had come all of the way back to take a 6-4 lead. Billy Wagner remained seated in the Philadelphia bullpen.

The Mets sent Looper out for the ninth as Met fans collectively held their breath. Looper began the inning by striking out Rollins, then got Lofton to ground out to Reyes. Chase Utley made us suffer a little longer by working the count to 3-2 with Looper killer Abreu waiting on deck, but Looper finally retired him on a fly ball to Beltran in center.

The Mets had climbed back to 7 games over .500, were only a half game out of the wildcard and were coming off a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the wildcard leader. I remember thinking at the time that they had the look of a team that was ready to play a little over their heads and make a true playoff run. Unfortunately this was as good as it would get. Pedro got beaten up the next day as the Mets fell 8-2, then Lieber beat them 3-1 as the calendar turned to September. Then the 2-8 road trip finished them off. But for one late August night the Mets were as close as they had come in years to mattering in September.

September 18 -- Glavine goes the distance
When Steve Trachsel and the Mets fell to the Braves 7-4 on September 17, they had truly hit bottom. In less than 3 weeks they had fallen from 7 over .500 to 4 under; from a mere half game out of the wildcard to a laughable 8 games out. With apologies to Yogi, it was truly over for the team: from high water to low tide in the blink of an eye.

As Glavine faced off against John Thomson the Mets were reduced to playing for intangibles: pride, building something for the future, and Glavine's own quest to reverse Atlanta's dominance over him personally. In fairness, after a bad loss to the Braves in April when he was really struggling, Glavine had pitched well against Atlanta the next 3 times he faced them. Still, he had nothing to show for it except 2 losses.

Glavine got off to a good start, setting the Braves down 1-2-3 in both the first and second innings. In the third Brian Jordan singled for the Braves' first hit, but he got Estrada to hit into a double play and then struck out Thomson. The Mets, meanwhile, wasted leadoff hits by Floyd and Wright in the second, and mounted no other serious threat as the game moved quickly along.

Furcal lead off the fourth with a walk, but then got thrown out by Piazza attempting to steal second. In the fifth Andruw Jones lead off with a single, then went to third one out later on Adam LaRoche's opposite field double. Glavine got Brian Jordan to pop out meekly to second, then loaded the bases with an intentional walk to Estrada before striking out Thomson again to end that threat. The Mets went down meekly 1-2-3 in both the fourth and fifth.

Then in the sixth the Braves broke through on a home run by the vomitous Marcus Giles. The way the Mets had been going offensively Glavine had to wonder if that single run was going to cost him another loss to the Braves. He got his answer quickly in the bottom of the frame. Jose Reyes walked to lead off. Diaz doubled on the next pitch over Jones in center to drive in Reyes and tie the game. On the next pitch Carlos Beltran doubled home Diaz to put the Mets ahead 2-1. Then, on the next pitch Cliff Floyd crushed a home run to put them up 4-1. In a span of four pitches in the sixth: ball four to Reyes -- RBI double by Diaz -- RBI double by Beltran -- 2 run HR by Cliff -- the Mets had all the cushion Tom Glavine would need to take the game and series from the Braves.

It wouldn't come so easy, though. In the seventh Glavine was in trouble immediately. Francoeur doubled to lead off, LaRoche followed with a single to put runners on second and third and Brian Jordan at the plate as the tying run. Willie stayed with Glavine, who rewarded the confidence by striking out Jordan and getting Estrada to hit into another double play to end the threat.

After the Mets failed to pad their lead in the bottom of the seventh, Willie sent out Glavine to pitch the eighth, and he quickly retired Betemit, Furcal and Giles. Despite the fact that he was already over 100 pitches, Willie again sent out Glavine to start the ninth. Larry Jones led off with a groundball to Reyes that took a terrible hop, but somehow Jose stayed with it and threw him out at first. Then Andruw Jones lined out to Wright for the out number 2, leaving Glavine 1 out away from his second victory against Atlanta. Fittingly, Jeff Francoeur grounded a 1-0 pitch back to Glavine, who threw to first to seal the victory.

Although the game had zero playoff implications for the Mets, it was important none the less. After coming home from their awful road trip the Mets rolled over and died for three games against the Nationals. It was starting to look like a typical Shea September collapse, but it never came. The 2 of 3 they took from a Braves team still working to clinch their own playoff spot turned it around and began a nice stretch of games against contending teams for the Mets. And Tom Glavine, using the cutter, curve and slider that complements the fastball and changeup in his new repertoire, pitched a complete game victory over the team that has owned him.

September 26 -- Repaying the favor
With less than a week to go in the season the Mets rolled into Philadelphia for a 3 game series with the Phillies, who were only a game behind the Astros in the wildcard race. The previous week the Mets had taken 2 of 3 from the Marlins in a series that spelled the beginning of the end of Florida's wildcard chances. They were looking to do the same to a team that had started them on their slide to oblivion four weeks earlier.

Jae Seo pitched for the Mets; Brett Myers, who had dominated them in the August 31 game that began their slide, started for Philadelphia. The Phillies came into the game on a hot streak, winners of 4 of their last 5. The Mets were playing their best ball of the year, winning 2 of 3 from the Braves and Marlins, and then sweeping 3 games in Washington.

As in the August 30 game, the Phils jumped right on Jae Seo, as Rollins lead off with a HR and Burrell later singled in Utley for a 2-0 lead. The Mets answered on Mike Jacobs' opposite field HR in the second to cut it to 2-1, but Philadelphia went back up by 2 in the bottom of the frame when the red-hot Rollins doubled home Lieberthal. The third and fourth innings passed by uneventfully for both teams.

The obnoxious Kenny Lofton led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, stole second, went to third on Utley's single to right, and scored on Abreu's sac fly to put the Phillies up 4-1. The Mets went quietly in the top of the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth Ryan Howard led off with a single, knocking out Seo. Willie inexplicably brought Danny Graves in to face David Bell. Even more inexplicably, Graves actually retired Bell for the first out.

Flushed with unanticipated success, Graves hit Mike Lieberthal with a 1-2 pitch to put runners on first and second. He managed to get Brett Myers on a groundout, with the runners advancing to second and third. Determined not to give Jimmy Rollins a hit or a walk, Graves succeeded (well, sort of) by hitting him to load the bases. Willie had finally seen enough, and brought in the great Kaz Ishii to pitch to Lofton, who was so overeager given the chance to hit against Ishii that he could only manage a fly out to Beltran. The Phillies had blown a golden opportunity to pad their lead against bad pitchers.

Meyers finally struggled a little in the top of the seventh, issuing a 1 out walk to Wright and a single to Piazza that gave the Mets runners on first and third with one out. Mike Jacobs followed with a soft grounder to rookie Ryan Howard that he tried to turn 2 on. Piazza was out at second, but the slow Mike Jacobs beat the throw to first, allowing Wright to score to narrow the lead to 4-2. In the bottom of the seventh Willie, who seemed determined to use every bad reliever he had, brought in Shingo Takatsu to face Pat Burrell. Shingo rewarded his manager's faith by allowing Burrell to crush a funky home run and put Philadelphia back up by 3 at 5-2.

In the top of the eighth Charlie Manuel decided to repay Willie for bringing in Graves, Ishii and Takatsu by bringing in Ugueth Urbina to replace Brett Meyers. A Marlon Anderson double and Jose Reyes walk put runners on first and second. Cairo's double scored Anderson and advanced Reyes to third. Urbina finally made a good pitch, got Beltran to ground to second, but Chase Utley rewarded him by throwing the ball away, scoring both Reyes and Cairo and tying the game.

Now Manuel had seen enough, bringing in leftie Aaron Fultz to face Cliff Floyd. Fultz rewarded his manager by giving up a solid hit off the wall to Cliff, putting runners on first and third. Manuel brought in Madson to face Wright, a move that actually worked as Wright went down on strikes, but before Manuel could pat himself on the back Madsen plunked Piazza with a pitch to load the bases. Jacobs, who had already driven a pair in for the Mets, crushed the first pitch to the deepest part of the park in center, coming close to being a grand slam but winding up as the go ahead sac fly. 6-5 Mets.

Philadelphia would have 2 more at bats to stave off a devastating loss, and they would face Roberto Hernandez as Willie decided he might actually want to win the game. He got David Bell to ground to Reyes, struck out Michael Tucker who pinch hit for Lieberthal, then retired Shane Victorino who was hitting for Madsen. The Mets went quietly in the top of the ninth, the Phillies were coming up for their last chance to avert disaster, and they would again face Hernandez going for a 2 inning save.

Hernandez struck out Jimmy Rollins leading off, then got Kenny Lofton to ground out to Reyes. Chase Utley doubled to keep the game going. The Mets elected to intentionally walk the left-handed Abreu and take their chances with Met-killer Pat Burrell. It paid off as the over-eager Burrell meekly grounded the first pitch he saw back to Hernandez. It was a stunning loss for the Phillies, compounded by another loss the next day as Padilla and Heilman held them at bay for the last 4 innings of a 3-2 Mets win. Philadelphia actually pulled it together enough to make one last run, finishing a solitary game out of the wildcard, forced to think about what could have been.

Thank you for joining us in our look back at the 2005 season.

We hope that you enjoyed reliving a handful of games from the 162 that bring back some good memories. For me, these games captured some of my favorite themes from a baseball season:

Aaron Heilman, who had gone from first round draft pick to punch line, finding himself against one of the best pitchers and baseball and one of the best line-ups in the National League.

The enigmatic Mr. Koo embarrassing the humorless Randy Johnson.

Cliff Floyd -- who had to hit not one but two HRs in a single at bat -- to win the Mets' greatest victory of the season.

Pedro Martinez, proving on more than one occasion that some big ticket free agents are worth every penny.

Jae Seo, who came back from banishment to become, with Tom Glavine, the Mets most dependable starter over the last couple of months.

Tom Glavine, a sure Hall of Famer, who the game seemed to pass by early in the year. He had to reinvent himself as a pitcher at a time when most are retiring, and in the process finally won the respect of most Met fans.

And finally, a team that fell out of it badly, in as ugly a manner as a team can fall out of the race, but somehow found a way to come back an finish the season with some dignity, and hope for seasons to come.

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